Eventful start to the year

Though Mumbai emerged victorious in a tight finish in the final of the Ranji Trophy, Karnataka were a trifle unlucky to lose as a couple of umpiring decisions went against them. However, Karnataka will be happy with the fact that there has been a turnaround in their cricket and, importantly, a young side has performed extraordinarily well right through the season.

The first three weeks in the New Year were eventful in Indian sport, starting off with Team India coming second best in the tri-series in Bangladesh followed by the controversies in hockey and shooting. While the defeat of the Indian cricket team was gracefully accepted by one and all, the protest by the hockey players drew unprecedented attention. The hockey players were miffed at not receiving the payments due to them and, quite obviously, their decision to express their ire was appropriately timed.

The hockey players had been patient enough for the simple reason that they were playing for the country out of passion apart from sacrificing their other sources of income in the process. It was a clear case of Hockey India (HI) not fulfilling its commitment. And its confidence about getting away with it was misplaced.

The governing body cannot expect the players to be obsequious all the time and continue to bulldoze them. The line that the National players preferred money to the honour of representing the country is an old one, and fortunately for the hockey players, the administrators could not convince the public that it was the case. However, it was heartening to see that the issue was settled not by more fresh promises but through part payments. While this is something the players might rejoice over, the pressure will no doubt be on them as the administrators will be keen to settle scores with them at an opportune moment.

At a time when the hockey issue was set to end, the pride of India, Abhinav Bindra, voiced his displeasure over his omission from the Indian squad. Of course, it is not the norm for the administrators to exempt someone from going through the process on the basis of his past performance or reputation, but there comes a time when the spirit of the law has to be applied as against sticking to the letter of the law. In an individual sport, there are chances for cracks to develop in the relationship between ace sportsmen and the governing bodies. We have seen it happen many a time in disciplines like squash and tennis. But one must bear in mind that anyone who has brought laurels to the country would not just ignore the fact that a lot of hopes are pinned on him in the forthcoming events.

Thankfully, the row between Bindra and the shooting federation is not about money. Hopefully, the federation will see reason and, as Bindra has indicated, will trust him and allow him to represent the country. After all, the ace shooter is only looking to sharpen his competitive edge and not throwing his attitude.

These controversies apart, the Ranji season concluded with Mumbai yet again emerging victorious in a tight finish in Mysore. But it has to be said that Karnataka were a trifle unlucky to lose the game as a couple of umpiring decisions went against them. However, Karnataka will be happy with the fact that there has been a turnaround in their cricket and, importantly, a young side has performed extraordinarily well right through the season.

The likes of Mithun and Manish Pandey have given a lot to cheer about as they look promising enough to don the National colours in the near future. Karnataka’s performance could not have come at a better time as things were not going well for them in the last few seasons. For a state that was viewed as one of the best in cricket in the country, they were having quite an ordinary time for too long. Karnataka needed the youngsters to come through and hold their own and that’s exactly what they did this year.

The lean phase in the preceding years triggered an anxiety that it would be a long time before Karnataka could hope to see another of their players playing for the country. The state has a rich history of producing great cricketers and the question of who will carry on the baton after Dravid was something none could visualise. But this year has changed everything and there will be smiles all around in the Garden City even though they would have preferred to finish the season by regaining the coveted trophy.

Karnataka’s success story means they will join Tamil Nadu in keeping the South Zone flag flying high. Unfortunately, Hyderabad has to come to terms with the ignominy of having to play in the plate next year. It is sad to see a team, with a rich cricketing tradition, having to go through a lean phase such as this and that too in its 75th year. Hopefully Hyderabad will come back strongly as Karnataka has done, and for the revival to happen, the onus is on the administration.

A lot of talented youngsters have been distracted by the lucrative IPL and as a result they seem to ignore the fact that performing in the Ranji Trophy is the only way to climb the ladder. The realisation might dawn when they see Pandey and Mithun along with others come into contention in the near future. The sooner they realise this, the better it is for them and for the revival of cricket in Hyderabad.